In a weekly Zoom meeting with fellow educator Dan Kenley, I had the incentive to think back into the ‘50s when I started forming my educational philosophy. In 1961 I began teaching social studies at Cherry Creek High School near Denver. I had just graduated from Colorado State College of Education and was certified to teach K-12 students. In college, I had been taught stuff, but almost nothing I would need as a teacher. I had to teach myself about education and all of its aspects ranging from curriculum development to classroom management and most of all, I had to accelerate my learning in the disciplines I was hired to teach. It was then that my education really began.
It was a time when I came to understand that I had to know where each student was in his or her development, and important things like their current emotional impairments. I had to know the reading level and grade level readiness of each student. The textbooks and syllabi for each course were written assuming that all students were at the same readiness level. Teachers were forced to teach to what someone had assumed was the middle or average.
I thought back and recalled the educators who had influenced me. My high school principal had urged me to go to teachers college. I was surprised. I told him I hated school. He said, “That is why you should be a teacher. You love learning.” The school was small; my class of 1957 had 82 seniors. The principal had a chance to get to know the students and he understood why I did everything I could to stay away from school because I was an active learner.
During my 16 years as a teacher, I worked under only two principals who were exceptional: Leonard Schillinglaw, my high school principal who was also the principal of the high school during my first years of teaching, and Don Goe a kind and competent man. Educators who understood what Maria Montessori made so clear: “You cannot teach a child well that you don’t know well.” These effective educational leaders knew the students and the staff. I was fortunate to have two educators who got to know me. They changed my life.
Each of us can identify people who are responsible for much of our core thinking and thus understanding of education and society. In about 1962, I became acquainted with the work of Dr. John Dewey, known as America’s first great philosopher. When I read that every educational program must end with the student making a contribution to himself and to society, there was a major change in my understanding of education, and my evaluation of educational programs.
Currently at the top of my list of those enlightening society is Yuval Noah Harari. Since 2015, when I read his first book, Sapiens, I have been aware that he is a major force in the world who is communicating what we need to do if our species is to survive. His insights into history, education, AI, politics, and human nature, must be a part of every informed person’s thinking. Access Harari on YouTube.
Lately I am totally blown away by historian Heather Cox Richardson. I taught American history for many years. The textbooks we used purposely left out many of the major issues in American history. Issues that only now, mainly due to the work of Richardson, allow a fact-based understanding of our history and how we got to where we are now. I regret that I was expected to teach a “white-washed” version based upon vital lies. Read/listen to Heather Cox Richardson!
Rachel Maddow’s work has enhanced and changed my thinking. She does not edit-out the really troublesome parts of our history that flourished because American jurisprudence did not equally enforce the Rule of Law due to political pressures. The present DOJ is too often politically influenced and does not consistently enforce the existing Rule Of Law, resulting in the rise to power of lawbreakers like the ignorant MAGA Republican Jim Jordan. Maddow has given Americans a new understanding of government that is Of, By, and For the powerful. Her podcast series Ultra and The Bagman are engrossing and enlightening.
One of the key issues leaders discuss that give us an insight into our present travail is an understanding of the reconstruction years following the Civil War. The December 2023 issue of Atlantic Monthly is a must read!
I cannot overstate the impact so many others have had on my understanding of education. Claude Steiner, who introduced me to the Scripts People Live, and Alvyn Freed, who applied transactional analysis to TA For Teens. My own Crow Canyon research into accelerated learning resulted in my creation of the Learning Path which informs what must happen for true learning to take place. When I taught educational leadership courses, I took armloads of books by authors who have written pivotal works in education and introduced them to my graduate students.
My insights into education are deeply rooted and constantly evolving. I am in love with education!